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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Lies and deception

22 July 2021

Sorry, I'm talking about drones today -- or should I say I am NOT talking about drones.

Back in December of 2018, Gatwick airport in the UK was thrown into turmoil after multiple reports of drones being sighted at and around the airport.

It was a busy time for the airport with Christmas travellers queuing to board flights and air movements at a seasonal high. The last thing anyone needed was for all flights to be grounded for fear of hitting a drone -- but that's exactly what happened.

According to Police, there were "credible witnesses" who claimed that one or more drones had been seen hovering over the airport so there was no option but to throw the travel plans of thousands into disarray and shut it down.

An extensive hunt was undertaken to find the drones and their operators.

What a fiasco, and only now is the truth being revealed -- albeit not admitted by those responsible for this dog's breakfast of a shambles.

One of the first things Police did was to arrest a couple who lived near the airport, on suspicion of being involved in the flying of the drones.

The only evidence they had for this arrest was a report from a "credible witness" (ie: their neighbour) who claimed that the man had a radio controlled helicopter in his garage. This alone was enough for this couple to be denied their liberty and held in custody for 48 hours, despite having a water-tight alibi that proved they could not have been involved.

They were later released and ultimately ended up winning a suit for false arrest which netted them 50,000 pounds and their lawers about three times as much.

Those of us who know a thing or two about drones smelled a rat right from the get-go in this drama. Police claimed that the drone had flown around the airport for up to an hour and that during at least some of that time there was heavy rain falling.

This makes no sense. Even the best multirotor drones have trouble staying aloft for more than 20-30 minutes and that's in ideal conditions.

The public was then told that sophisticated "anti-drone" technology had been installed at the airport to detect the drone(s) if/when they returned.

Despite this super-hi-tech gear being present, further sightings from "credible witnesses" were filed and the airport remained closed -- yet strangely enough none of those sightings triggered any kind of response from the millions of pounds worth of anti-drone gear listening out for them.

Even more astounding was the fact that by this stage there were huge numbers of media reporters and cameras camped out at the airport covering the drama. Despite all these long lenses and professional photographers, not a single image of "The Gatwick Drone" was ever captured, even though further sightings by "credible witnesses" continued to be reported.

At one stage, Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley atually told the media that "there may not have been a drone" but this position was quickly withdrawn by his superiors and I suspect he got a pretty stingy rap over the knuckles for making it.

Well guess what?

Further evidence has surfaced that almost certainly backs up Det Tingley's assertion and explains all the strange anomolies associated with this incident.

Guess what?

The image above is one taken at the time of one of the "sightings" by a local to the Gatwick area and clearly shows a Police helicopter hovering over and around the airport. Others have reviewed the ADSB flight history of this craft and determined that it exactly matches the timing and locations of the reported "drone" which kicked off this entire incident.

That's right... there was NO DRONE at Gatwick yet, for some reason, authorities continued to believe their "credible witnesses" for several days, even in the face of evidence to the complete contrary delivered by the anti-drone technologies installed at the site.

So let's examine what makes a "credible witness"...

Would you consider a police officer to be a "credible witness"?

I would suggest the answer is a definte NO.

Sources closer to the action than myself have suggested that the whole "Gatwick Drone Incident" was merely a cover-up for a huge failure in the computer systems at the airport. Perhaps a ransomware attack, perhaps some other kind of failure.

At the time of this incident, Gatwick Airport was in the throws of being sold and I suspect that nobody would have wanted to let it be known that the security on their systems was so poor that they fell victim to such a hack or ransomware attack. Perhaps they chose instead to create a plausible scenario that would explain why the airport was shut down for three days at the busiest time of the year.

My biggest concern right now however, is that New Zealand's Ministry of Transport is basing much of their call for tougher drone regulations here on "The Gatwick Drone Incident". They cite this incident as justification for the introduction of things like compulsory drone registration, licensing of operators and mandatory remote-ID technology on my model aircraft.

Rules justified by deception or incompetence are NEVER going to be good rules -- but do you think they'll care?

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